Have you ever bumped into somebody that you haven’t seen in a long time? You often think of how strange that you would meet by chance, but you have nothing on this pair.
They met after not seeing each other in almost 79 years. It all started when Jack Waksal and Sam Ron were teenagers. They met each other but it wasn’t under the most favorable circumstances. There were both imprisoned at the Pionki labor camp in Poland.
Their days were filled with shoveling piles of coal into a furnace. It was exhausting work that lasted for hours on end and they had to live with the very real possibility that their captors would kill them at any moment. Aside from that, they were afraid that they would die from exhaustion.
Sam referred to it as hard work, bad conditions, cold, hunger. He said: “Hundreds of people died. It wasn’t uncommon to wake up in the morning and find the person next to you cold.”
Jack also remembers those days as being the worst in his life. The prisoners were sometimes not fed for weeks at a time and they might even have to eat the bark off trees just to live.
At times, they would have to work 24 hours a day and they were held at gunpoint all the time. Random people would sometimes even be sent away to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where they would die.
Jack said it was a miracle that they even survived. Eventually, Jack was able to escape into a forest and lived six months in the freezing cold. When the American soldiers caught up with them on a death march, they were liberated and Sam was set free.
Both men eventually moved to the United States to start a new life. They didn’t know if each other had survived and that was the case with many of the people who lived at that camp.
Recently, they both attended the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum South Florida Dinner. They are now both in their late 90s, and Sam held an honorary chair at the event.
He was speaking from the podium and mentioned his Polish name, Shmuel Rakowski. Jack knew right away that he was meeting someone he had seen in a very long time.
Both Jack and Sam felt like they had lost a brother 79 years ago. They were relieved to know that each other had survived and they hoped that they would keep in touch for the rest of their lives.
“I’m so glad that I got somebody [who] was in my camp and working with me together,” Jack said. “Every day, it was so hard.”
“We worked together. We suffered together,” Sam said. “It was very much an emotional day, and I hope to keep in touch with him.”
Both men are great-grandfathers and they love the United States. It was a reunion beyond recounting.